Gazette: Feature On Hoops Sophomores - UMass Athletics

Gazette: Feature On Hoops Sophomores

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In the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Matt Vautour has a great feature on the sophomore class of UMass basketball.

A year ago, the four University of Massachusetts freshmen didn't know just how much they didn't know. As they prepared for the 2009-10 season, the rookies - Terrell Vinson, Javorn Farrell, Freddie Riley and Sampson Carter - all declared the freshman class ready for prime time.

At times they looked the part. Each had promise-revealing moments during their first collegiate season in which all four played a lot of minutes. But over the course of the year the Minutemen freshmen played like freshmen.

Now sophomores, the quartet is considerably more seasoned and wiser about what to expect.

What a difference a year makes for UMass sophomore hoop players

Photo: For soph trio, what a difference a year makes
JERREY ROBERTS
Terrell Vinson shoots during practice Tuesday at the Mullins Center.

AMHERST - A year ago, the four University of Massachusetts freshmen didn't know just how much they didn't know.

As they prepared for the 2009-10 season, the rookies - Terrell Vinson, Javorn Farrell, Freddie Riley and Sampson Carter - all declared the freshman class ready for prime time.

At times they looked the part. Each had promise-revealing moments during their first collegiate season in which all four played a lot of minutes. But over the course of the year the Minutemen freshmen played like freshmen.

Now sophomores, the quartet is considerably more seasoned and wiser about what to expect.

"Your freshman year you don't really know what to expect," said Carter, who averaged 4.3 points and 3.4 rebounds last year. "Now we know what to expect. We know what type of competition we're going against. I think it's going to be a good year. It should be easier and we'll have no excuses."

Full practice doesn't start until Friday, but the NCAA allows teams to practice together in short stints during the fall. UMass coach Derek Kellogg has noticed improvement in his second-year players.

"They came back ready and much more focused," he said. "As a group I think you'll see guys who have spent time in the weight room and spent time maturing. We have to be tougher and mentally stronger. We have to play better defense and rebound the ball better. I think they're in a good mindset to take on most of, if not all, the challenges I'll put in front of them.

"This is the most together group since I've been here. They like being around each other," he continued. "They come in with a good attitude and are working harder than any team since I've been here. All that stuff is refreshing. But it's easy right now. If I'm saying these same things in two months we have something special here."

Vinson, who averaged 9.6 points and 5.4 rebounds as a rookie, has noticed a difference in attitude.

"Everything has been more intense. The team workouts, the condition, the weight room, everything," said Vinson, who started every game as a freshman.

Only Ricky Harris graduated from last year's team that went 12-20, but he won't be easy to replace. The No. 3 scorer in school history led the Minutemen in points (19.8), assists (2.9) and steals (1.3) per game. The sophomores will be the unit that will collectively try to overcome his production.

"I'm a lot more confident with school, basketball, everything. I'm not new anymore. I have way more confidence. Everybody has much more confidence. We all feel like we have a bigger role now that we don't have to rely on Ricky so much," said Riley, who averaged 9.3 points per game last year. "A lot of times last year we had spurts where we'd play good but our youth would get the best of us and we'd end up losing games. If we can be more consistent and play harder we can be a pretty good team."

The preseason magazines don't share Riley's optimism as the Minutemen have been picked between 11-13th in the Atlantic 10, setting expectations in 2011-12 when the four talented players sitting out for UMass become eligible. What bothers Riley is that he doesn't think UMass fans expect much from this team either.

"We think we're way better than what people think about us. We think we're way better than what our fans think of us," Riley said. "We read an article that said our best players are not on the court this year. We have a lot to prove not only to the magazines, but also to our own fans. It was frustrating and sad to see that our fans don't even believe is us."

Riley said that frustration hasn't affected him on the court.

"I want to be here. I love playing for Coach Kellogg and being around my teammates every day. I feel like now we have to prove that we can play," he said. "It's going to feel so much better to prove everybody wrong."

Farrell said the sting of losing as often as they did last year hasn't gone away as the players have used it as motivation.

"Guys know what we don't want to happen and the pain we felt last year after losing those games we thought we should have won. We understand better what coach wants and how hard he needs us to go," said Farrell, who pointed to maintaining a consistent effort as a big key. "Last year we'd go out and win a big game and then lost a game we weren't expected to lose. We don't expect that to happen this year.

"People have been stepping up a lot in practice and in preseason workouts. Every day we come in and we're getting better," he continued. "We have more camaraderie. We hold each other more accountable than we did last year and in the past. It's looking pretty bright."

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